Belmont Club

A mess of pottage

Reuters reports that Russia will allow the US to supply Afghanistan through territory that Moscow controls. It says:

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will grant President Barack Obama permission next week to ship U.S. weapons supplies across its territory, or through its airspace, en route to Afghanistan, sources on both sides told Reuters on Saturday. The transit deal will open up an important corridor for the United States as it steps up its Afghan war against Taliban insurgents by sending in more troops. Routes via Pakistan have come under attack by militants …

Medvedev has repeatedly said he is ready to widen cooperation with U.S.-led coalition and NATO forces in Afghanistan, though Moscow has ruled out sending any of its own troops to fight. Russia has already granted Washington the right to transit ‘non-lethal’ supplies, such as food, overland via Russia — and Central Asia — to Afghanistan.

The Washington Post says a US sources has confirmed the deal and calls it a “step forward in cooperation on Afghanistan, which Russia views as a key area where both the former Cold War foes can work together to mend ties.”

This represents another kind of debt, one which will have to be repaid eventually. It is inconceivable that Russia will not demand linkage for its agreement to supply the Afghan campaign elsewhere. Whether this will take the form of payback in the Honduras, Iran, in Russian policy towards Europe, in money, in shared secrets or something else is not at the moment clear. But there will be some price. What’s clear is that Barack Obama has taken out a political loan to buy something in South Asia. Like any other debt, the question must be will America get it’s money’s worth. Will Obama’s strategy in South Asia (whatever it happens to be) yield returns commensurate to the price that will have to be paid. And by the way, what is that price? Surely the the State Department has some idea. Without a clear knowledge of how much one is borrowing in exchange for what investment plan, it’s hard to say whether this is good or bad. Maybe one shouldn’t worry. Why stint on debt when there are some visions that are too big to fail.


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